How Facebook’s Growing Role in Local Search Will Impact Medical Marketers

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Facebook is looking to break into the local search market — here’s what medical organizations need to know.

With more than two billion active monthly users and a 39.1% share of the total U.S. display ad market, Facebook is the clear and undisputed king of social media. But it would seem that the company isn’t satisfied with its current level of digital domination, and it will be seeking to expand into other areas of the online consumer experience — most notably, local search.

While Facebook has made attempts to break into this area in the past, it’s typically played second fiddle to established powerhouses like Google and Yelp; the former currently controls an approximate 80% share of the online search market and 95% of the mobile search market.

But recent efforts by Facebook to vamp up its local search-related features and functions could actually make it a real threat to its competitors. Considering the importance of local search in the medical industry, I thought a quick overview of the social media giant’s activity in this area would be helpful to our audience. Without further ado, here are three key areas that are going to make Facebook a major play in the local search market going forward.

1. Audience Size, Demographic Makeup, and Internal Resources

First and foremost, I can’t overstress the value of Facebook’s massive audience. But it’s not just the fact that there are more than two billion users that makes it so valuable — it’s that those users come with demographic, behavioral, and interest-based data that can be leveraged to reach them directly with highly personalized materials. Google Search, while offering unique opportunities to reach patients through keyword targeting, simply can’t compete with this level of granularity and personal data.

Moreover, Facebook’s audience is incredibly wide-ranging in terms of its demographic makeup.

Internet User Demographics That Are Active on Facebook:

  • 82% of 18-to-29-year-olds
  • 79% of 30-to-49-year-olds
  • 56% of those over the age of 65

  • 76% of females
  • 66% of males
  • 73% of Latinos

  • 67% of African Americans
  • 71% of Caucasians

Google’s decision to discontinue G+ pages for businesses was a big win for Facebook. Its users can search through practice and hospital pages directly on the platform, consume relevant and informative content, interact directly with the brands, and even see if members of their personal network have liked and/or interacted with the organization.

2. When Local Really Means Local

In the mobile age, the word “local” has taken on a stricter meaning than ever before. In fact, 72% of consumers who perform a “local search” ended up visiting a store within five miles of their current location. Winning the local search game is all about capitalizing on the “in-the-moment” mindset that mobile devices have made possible.

In response to this trend, Facebook has placed more focus on the maps and locations functions for its Places and Business pages. This information now appears in search results, and is more visible on the pages themselves.

3. Be Relevant — Be Visible

Back when Facebook started including public posts and pages in its search results, it dealt a massive blow to Places and Business pages. Many companies found themselves bumped to the bottom of the list. This was actually incredibly frustrating to users, who found it difficult to find relevant options when conducting searches for local goods and services.

Luckily, Facebook recognized this problem and took measures to address it. Today, search results aren’t just more intuitive and aligned with a consumer’s interests and/or location — like Google Search, the platform now suggests searches in an attempt to predict what the user is looking for. This represents a massive opportunity for medical providers to reach new audiences in their local markets. They just need to make sure that their Pages are optimized, which means focusing on accurate listing info, patient reviews/ratings, and content sharing.

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